Is there anything sweeter than being snuggled up with your babies? Feeling their little bodies wiggle around in their sleep, listening to their every breath? It’s such a beautiful experience that I almost missed out on.
I had every intention of sharing our bedroom with our baby when our first baby was due in 2008. We had no plans to set up a nursery; I constantly joked that the newborn could sleep in a dresser drawer in our room - after all – it was bigger than my womb. As a baby gift, my parents built an addition on our home to make room for a nursery. I looked at this nursery decorated with love and wondered how I would ever hear a baby crying for me so far away from where I sleep.
He was born at 12:44 am; I stared at him for an hour straight, this living breathing baby boy who was so healthy. Who only moments before was inside me, with me, completely dependent on my every breath, on my every heart beat. Yet here he was, now able to breathe without me, able to pump his own blood without my help. I held on tight, the fluid he had survived in for 42 1/2 weeks slowly drying on his soft olive-pink colored skin.
I needed no sleep that night, just his perfect little body close to me and I was blissfully happy. But the nurse insisted I lay him down in a co-sleeper right next to my bed. I stared at him and wondered if he was okay with being six inches away from me, because I was not.
When we brought him home from the birthing center, my parents were there to help us once again as we set up the co-sleeper and attached it to our bed. While my parents are always supportive and never judgmental, I could sense their concern with our decision to have the baby in our room. They finished helping us and then left for home, leaving my husband and I alone for the first time with our newborn. It was days later before I realized their intent – they wanted us to be the parents WE wanted to be without THEIR influence, and so, they had left.
That first night, as we got ready for bed, our son neatly tucked into his own little bed attached to our big bed, something seemed not quite right. I woke up probably every 5 minutes to touch him, feel his chest to be sure he was breathing, nudge him a bit so he would move, listen to him snore…I’m pretty sure neither of us got any rest that night. The next morning, I had an appointment with a lactation consultant. She took one look at our co-sleeper attached to the bed and knew in an instant what I needed to hear. “Why don’t you lie down on your side with your baby and I’ll show you how to position him so you can both get some sleep?” she offered. This position would allow me to hear and feel his breath. It would allow our bodies to touch, for me to share my warmth with him, for us to prolong our bond. And most importantly it would restore that sense of closeness that I – and my son - were missing the previous night.
We slept just fine that night, like three monkeys all snuggled up in the bed. The co-sleeper remained attached to the bed for many months – I viewed it as a safe guard in case he ever tried to roll off the bed. It became a great place to store diapers and wipes. The crib, like so many pieces of home exercise equipment in other people’s homes, has become a place to store clothes. I realize there are many people who put their babies in a crib in another room, but I could never. I can’t imagine taking a tiny little baby who spent every minute of the day with you for the last 9 months and sending him off on his own, away from all the familiar sounds of your heart beating and lungs breathing, away from your warmth and protection, and most importantly away from your love. As for safety, you cannot argue that there is anything safer for my babies than being mere inches away from the 2 people who are 100% committed to nurturing and protecting them.
Our son is now 28 months and he sleeps next to Dad. Next to our son is our 7 month old daughter – usually holding her brother’s hand. And I’m on the other side with her tiny feet tucked up in my belly and his little arm draped across my neck. Now we are 4 little monkeys all snuggled up in bed.
It works for our family, and we couldn’t imagine it any other way.